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Complex jobs may benefit brain function

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Complex jobs may benefit brain function, a new study says.

Researchers have identified an association between complexity of main lifetime occupation and cognitive performance in later life.

The research indicated that people with complex jobs, including working with other people or data such as lawyers and engineers, could benefit from a better memory and thinking abilities in later life.

The results were achieved after examining 534 men and 532 women – all aged 70 – under Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, a longitudinal study of aging in Scotland, according to the study report in the journal Neurology.

“When we look at the association between complexity of work with people or data, we see that those in more complex jobs generally do better on a range of cognitive ability measures,” said Alan J. Gow, from Heriot-Watt University and the Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The participants were assigned scores summarizing the occupational complexity of their work with data, people, and things.

They had to take tests designed to assess memory, processing speed and general thinking ability, as well as filling in a questionnaire about their working life.

General linear model analyses revealed that people with complex skills in dealing with data or people, such as management and teaching had better cognitive performance at age 70.

Lawyers, social workers, surgeons, and probation officers are categorized into the jobs that score highly for the complexity of work with people, while the jobs that have lower scores for complexity of work with people include factory worker, bookbinder, painter, and carpet layer.

“One theory is a more stimulating environment helps build up a cognitive reserve to help buffer the brain against age-related decline,” the researchers suggest.

“Keeping the brain active throughout life could be helpful and different types of work may play a role,” said head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Simon Ridley.


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